BRADSHAW HOPING FOR FRUITFUL AFTERNOON BRADSHAW HOPING FOR FRUITFUL AFTERNOON

BRADSHAW HOPING FOR FRUITFUL AFTERNOON

In the latest of his regular offerings Bescot Banter columnist Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at this weekend's FA Cup First Round tie with between Walsall and visitors Shrewsbury Town, and looks back at past encounters along with thought's on what potential impact former Shrew Tom Bradshaw might have on the tie.
In the latest of his regular offerings Bescot Banter columnist Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at this weekend's FA Cup First Round tie with between Walsall and visitors Shrewsbury Town, and looks back at past encounters along with thought's on what potential impact former Shrew Tom Bradshaw might have on the tie.

It’s that time of year again, the bit where we can forget league positions for a week or so and turn our attention to that grand old lady The Football Association Challenge Cup Competition. In a move welcomed by us old traditionalists the draw for the first round was shifted from it’s Sunday afternoon slot to Monday evening and life for those of us in the lower divisions was suspended for the few minutes it took for our favourites to be pulled out. Like most of us, I suppose, if we were to be drawn away I wanted it to be at a place I’d not previously visited and if we were given a home game then I didn’t care who our opponents might be. It wasn’t long before ball number forty five appeared and seconds later we knew that we’d be facing the lads from Salop again and I would imagine their fans felt as underwhelmed as we did at the prospect of a repeat of last season’s first round fixture. Last time around, to be truthful, I can’t recall the game as being much of a spectacle so a more entertaining game this time around seems fairly likely. All being well there will, of course, be a bit of spice added by the Tom Bradshaw factor as he faces his hometown club and no-one who’s regularly seen him play for us this season will be in any doubt as to his importance to us. When he plays we look a far more complete team than when he’s absent and he’ll no doubt be relishing the chance to knock in a goal or two against his former employees and they’ll be determined to see that he doesn’t. The initial reaction to the draw among our fans revealed a certain level of what amounts to complacency, we played them three times last season and won all three without conceding a goal as the Shrews endured a pretty wretched season that saw the club ultimately return to League Two. Therefore we’ll prevail this time, won’t we? Maybe, maybe not. The Shrews have made an excellent start to life in the lower division and currently occupy one of the automatic promotion places, meaning we’ll be facing a side high on confidence and scoring goals at an impressive rate. I’m sure the players won’t be regarding the result as a foregone conclusion but it seems that some of our supporters are seeing it in exactly that way and I really don’t think they should be. Our home form of late has been excellent so let’s go into the game in a cautiously optimistic mood but let’s take nothing for granted. Life as a Saddlers supporter is such that the moment we think we know what’s coming next often turns out to be the moment something silly happens. Talking of silly, what about Mr Hazard and his comments about the difficulties Chelski faced when coming up against ‘Strawberry’? If he’d made them off camera then no-one would know but there’s no getting away with a gaffe like that these days and he’ll no doubt have had to endure his fair share of leg-pulling in the days since. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a bloke with a name like Eden would know a bit about fruit?

Personally a game against Shrewsbury always evokes memories of facing them at Fellows Park in the third round of the Milk Cup on our way to the semi-final in the 83/4 season. A bumper crowd turned up to see Mick Kearns come out of retirement to help with our goalkeeping crisis and what I remember as an entertaining game was delicately poised at one-each as we entered the last ten minutes. I can recall thinking that I’d be happy with a replay as I’d never visited Gay Meadow at that time but, as was usual under Alan Buckley, we went for the jugular and a packed Street End roared the lads on as they kicked toward us. If my memory serves me correctly we won a corner and the ball eventually arrived at the feet of little Gary Childs on the edge of the penalty area, from where he blasted it into the top corner for one of my favourite ever Saddlers goals and the one that sealed that legendary trip to Highbury in round four. What wonderful times those were as we progressed to the only major cup semi-final we’ve ever reached, facilitated by a style of swaggering attacking football that those of us present frequently recall in many a moment of misty-eyed reminiscence. It’s about time we had a cup run of that ilk again so let’s hope that Saturday’s game turns out to be just the start of a run that those still around will be speaking fondly of in twenty five or thirty year’s time.

How great would that be?

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